Top actors call on the government for tax relief to encourage more diversity in film and TV

Lenny Henry petition

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A group of famous faces, including comedian Sir Lenny Henry, visited Downing Street today to hand in a letter calling for tax breaks to encourage more diversity in the entertainment industry.

The petition, which has been signed by a string of stars, was delivered to Number 10 by Sir Lenny, Adrian Lester, Ade Adepitan, Nadine Marsh-Edwards, Marcus Ryder and Meera Syal.

The document is calling for immediate tax relief for UK production companies in an effort to get more women, people from BAME backgrounds and those with disabilities working behind the scenes in film and TV.

The letter suggests that tax relief should be given to production companies that meet at least three of four criteria, including having a director or photography director from one of the underrepresented groups, and having a 50 per cent female staff behind the cameras.


'I thought, oh, this is something we should pursue'

WATCH: Sir Lenny talks about how the petition came to be.

Speaking to talkRADIO, Sir Lenny said the decision to organise the petition came to him after a speech he delivered about tax breaks for diversity and inclusion at the MIPCOM conference in Cannes was met with “lots of applause”.

“There was lots of applause and people nodding, and I thought, oh, this is something we should pursue," he explained.

“Already in France they’re doing a 15 per cent contribution to budgets that have female-centric make-up. So a female director, head of production, cinematographers. They’re giving a 15 per cent tax break to those things. That’s good.

“We’re trying to get the government to join in with us and go, wouldn’t this be a great thing. We’re not asking about a lot.

"Let's not stay in isolation not talking to each other because that's no good."


'It makes economic sense'

(L-R) Marcus Ryder, Nadine Marsh-Edwards, Ade Adepitan, Meera Syal, Adrian Lester and Sir Lenny Henry. Image: Steve Parsons/PA

Actress Meera Syal said that delivering tax breaks made "economic", "moral" and "cultural sense".

"Research shows that for every one pound of tax relief, five pounds comes into the country," Ms Syal told talkRADIO.

"This is an incentive, it makes economic sense as well as moral sense and cultural sense to just bring our industry up to the level it should be and reflect all of our stories."